After much rejection, Fred Lundahl (founder of Buddy L Toys) got his first big break into the toy business when he proved the exceptional quality of his product by standing on top of one of his toys!
Fred tells it best, in the excerpt below (c.1925):
“I went to Marshall Field’s retail store to see their toy buyer […] He looked at my sample and said ‘Man, do you think we can sell a toy like that for $6 – something you just pull across the floor?[…] I can buy better toys in Germany that run with a spring motor and sell for $5 and I make 300% profit.’
Discouraged, I’ll say I was, but it was only 4 pm and I went down to the old Rothschilds Store […] [The assistant toy buyer’s] immediate reply without my uncovering my sample was ‘Oh dear! I’m so tired of looking at junk toys I don’t want to see any more.’ In the meantime, I had set my sample on the floor and I was standing on it – 220 pounds!
‘Say, what have you got there?’ came from her.
‘Not junk’ was my reply.”
Before I knew it the toy was unwrapped and it was nearly six o’clock before I left the store…”
Encouraged, Lundalh had the confidence to return to Marshall Field’s a few weeks later with another sample – He left with an order of 200 each for his steam shovel and International Harvester truck.
Fred Lundahl founded the Moline Pressed Steel Company in 1910, initially manufacturing auto body parts and farm equipment parts. Around 1920, Lundahl noted his rambunctious young son’s need for sturdier toys. Always tinkering and building various gadgets out of scrap metal from his company, Lundahl decided to build a miniature dump truck for his boy. Turns out, the truck was not only a hit with little Arthur, but was coveted by many of the other children in the neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, Fred Lundahl had retooled part of his machine shop in a toy-making shop, crafting high quality pressed steel toy vehicles. He named the line of Toys “Buddy L” because his son Arthur’s nickname was Buddy – he wasn’t the only boy on the block with that nickname however, so everyone called him Buddy “L” (for Lundahl).
Buddy L continued to make quality steel toys for decades to come, and now over 100 years after their inception, these toys are highly sought after by collectors (ourselves included!)
Collectors Weekly. “Vintage Buddy L Vehicles”. https://www.collectorsweekly.com/model-cars/buddy-l
Ickes, Barb. “Buddy L history hidden in home”. 17 Nov 2014, Quad City Times. https://qctimes.com/news/local/buddy-l-history-hidden-in-home/article_68e63cdb-f436-59c3-9b27-5fda65a0ce08.html
McCollough, Albert W. The New Book of Buddy ‘L’ Toys: Volume 1. Skyesville, MD: Greenberg Publishing, 1991.
Written and photographed by Shauna Taylor